Kinky, Jesus, and Coca-Cola

Never knew quite what to make of Kinky Friedman, but that's never been the point, has it? That would take a bit of the fun out of Kinky's self-created, but not undeserved, legend. Besides, he likes it that way--loves it, really--being the eccentric joker laughing behind his ever-present shades, black cowboy hat rakishly perched atop his unruly Jewfro, cigar stuck to his hand like an extra finger. Who else would traipse around Austin during the recent South by Southwest Music Festival with Richard Fairbrass, a member of Right Said Fred? (Right Said Fred being the band, if memory serves, that proved they weren't too sexy to perform in leather hot pants, but sadly, were indeed too sexy for a career in music.) Answer: no one, not even Fairbrass' mother.

Palling around with a forgotten one-hit-blunder was either a brilliant screw-you to the SXSW rumor mill, some sort of actual friendship, or, more likely, just Kinky being Kinky. That's all he's ever been throughout his career, more a personality than anything else. He started as a singer-songwriter who wrote songs that were easily dismissed as novelty, at least the way he sang them ("Ride 'Em Jewboy," and "They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore"). Later, his peculiar wit and wisdom eventually led to a second career as a mystery novelist, writing books that were either tall tales, outright fiction, or somewhere in between. Who could tell, especially when the main character in his books is a private dick named Kinky Friedman and there are more celebrity cameos than a Robert Altman film?

Whatever they are, Kinky's novels are brilliant in their way, particularly 1998's Blast From the Past and 1993's Elvis, Jesus & Coca-Cola. And after all this time, his songs were revealed to have a heart behind the punch line as well, thanks to last year's Pearls in the Snow, a tribute album featuring Willie Nelson, Tom Waits, Dwight Yoakum, and Lyle Lovett, among others. Of course, Kinky shows up on Pearls in the Snow (available through his Web site www.kinkyfriedman.com) too, which is more than fitting. He's been paying tribute to himself all along.

--Zac Crain

Kinky Friedman will discuss his career as a novelist and songwriter--and perform a handful of songs--on Thursday at Borders, 10720 Preston Road at Royal Lane. He will also sign copies of Pearls in the Snow and Blast from the Past. The event is free and starts at 7 p.m. Call (214) 363-1977.

 
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